3GSM - ICQ buddies up with global wireless carriers

ICQ, the instant messaging software subsidiary owned by America Online Inc. (AOL), sought to display its cosmopolitan flair Tuesday, announcing deals with a handful of global wireless carriers, making its services available to over 40 million subscribers in 19 different languages.

ICQ said that it has sewed up deals with carriers such as Israel's Cellcom, Germany's E-Plus, the Netherland's KPN Mobile, and Singapore's SingTel, among others.

The announcement, made at the 3GSM World Congress in Cannes, France, underscores ICQ's international focus, the company said, which is centered around the IM software's multilingual abilities. AOL said that its software's ability to localize content and view messages as they are meant to be seen, across a variety of fonts and character sets, has given it an edge in the global arena.

The software is available in 19 languages, including Japanese, Dutch, Thai, Turkish, Chinese, Russian and Portuguese, and will soon be available in Arabic and Hebrew.

ICQ was created in 1996 by Israel-based company Mirabilis, and was purchased by AOL in 1998. Although it may not be as high-profile as AOL's flagship AOL Instant Messenger (AIM) product, ICQ has garnered a strong following, boasting over 150 million registered users.

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